A long time ago, I was part of a prayer chain at my church. Whenever someone in the parish needed prayer the telephone tree went into action. Whether our prayers were answered as we hoped or in ways we never understood, we always did hear sooner or later. Although I did have one friend named Carole who said she felt a calling to pray at times for people or even outcomes she didn’t know. Driving down the road, she’s suddenly get a feeling that she needed to pull over and pray. She always answered that call and rarely ever knew who she was praying for or what.
In today’s world of interconnectedness, it often seems very much like that, except in a far larger way. In a brief Tweet or a status posting on Facebook prayers are solicited for everything from a missing child, to a shooting, to the loss of a soldier or the illness of a parent. More often than not, even when I do take a moment to answer that request, I will never know the outcome. This past weekend was rife with requests. A ship lost at sea with 38 souls on board, flooding in South Carolina, survivors of the shooting in Oregon and the families of those killed. And closer to home, a neighbor told me she’d just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Some of those prayers already have answers. The ship sank and people died in South Carolina, but many more were rescued even though they may have lost their homes and livelihoods.
I know that some of you will read this post and scoff. You don’t believe in God at all, or you don’t believe in prayer. Some of you once did believe, but when you needed God most, He seemed far away and not interested in your problems. I’ve been there. I know. I prayed for my husband’s cancer to be vanquished. I prayed for my mother when her mind was slipping away. I prayed harder than I’d ever prayed in my life when my grandsons were fighting for their lives. I even tried to bargain with God – offering my life in lieu of theirs. But that’s not how prayers work.
My husband died at peace, at home where he wanted to be with all his family about him, even his son who had been half a world away serving in the military just a few days before. My mother found unexpected enjoyment in the social life of the assisted living home where she spent the last two years of her life. There were blessings in both those events, but I am still struggling with why the innocent lives of two precious little boys were not spared, and I have to have faith that one day I will understand.
So, today I light my prayer candle and I ask God to bring peace and solace to the families of those who have lost someone they love, in Oregon, at sea in a hurricane, in the fighting in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world. For the parents of babies and children fighting for their lives in hospitals everywhere, for those who feel so overwhelmed and sad that they are considering suicide, for healing for soldiers who have been wounded in mind or body, for law enforcement officers everywhere who put on their badges this morning and went to work in spite of the vendetta being waged against them, for refugees, the homeless, addicts and the ill and those who care for them. I will never know, nor do I need to know if or how my prayers are answered. It is enough to talk to God and leave my burdens and those of everyone who struggles in his hands. I don’t need to understand the answers – I need only have faith. God does not bring evil into the world, but he does grant us the strength to cope with whatever mountains we face.
So, to those of you who do believe in prayer – take a moment right now to thank God for the blessings in your life and ask Him to comfort those who need Him most.